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Liebesode (Ode to Love)

Published November 20, 2023

Poster for Liebesode (Ode to Love)

Northampton, MA — The Sage Chamber Music Society of Smith College presents Liebesode (Ode to Love) featuring mezzo-soprano Katherine Saik DeLugan and pianist Jiayan Sun on Saturday, December 2, 2023 at 4:00 PM. The program explores works of late Austrian and German Romantic composers who revolutionized Western melody and harmony in service of elevated poetry and storytelling. The concert is free and open to the public in Sweeney Concert Hall. The event will also be live-streamed.

Richard Wagner continues to be one of the most controversial, yet undeniably influential composers in history. Even while he was (and is) loathed by many of his contemporaries and successors, his influence on them is undeniable. In Liebesode (Ode to Love), mezzo-soprano Katherine Saik DeLugan, Core Lecturer in Voice at Smith College, and pianist Jiayan Sun, Assistant Professor of Music and Associate Chair for Performance Activities at Smith College, will explore the works of composers who became the musical descendants of Wagner. Just on the cusp of modernity, each work displays the burgeoning complexities and chromaticism that became ubiquitous at the turn of the 20th century. In addition, the program explores the trends in late-Romantic German and Austrian poetry. Each selection of music reflects a different manifestation and experience of love and its effect on the human condition. 

Alma Mahler’s Fünf and Vier Lieder (Four and Five songs) contain texts that explore youthful and flirtatious love which are interlaid between venerations of the majesty of the natural world. In Alban Berg’s Sieben Frühe Lieder (Seven Early Songs), detailed textual depictions of natural elements mirror different stages of sexual awakening. In Gustav Mahler’s raw and heart-wrenching Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children), lonely, numbing and often surprisingly mundane manifestations of grief are expressed in tandem with awareness of the sun and stars rising and changes in the weather. 

The program ends with the final trio and duet from Richard Strauss’s opera, Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) with guest sopranos Jenna Rae and Erin Casey. The scene depicts the outcome of mature and unselfish love, as lonely Marschallin gives her blessing for her young lover (Octavian) to pursue the beautiful (and more age-appropriate) Sophie.

Artist Biographies

Mezzo-Soprano Katherine Saik DeLugan is a cross-genre vocalist and performing arts educator who currently serves as a Core Lecturer in Music at Smith College. She holds a Bachelor of Music from UMass Amherst and a Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music. While a graduate student, Katherine was the second place winner in the Alan and Joan Taub Ades Vocal Competition and first place winner in the Eisenberg-Fried Concerto Competition. Since returning to the Pioneer Valley, she has sung many operatic roles which have been described by as leaving “an indelible impression”,  “gloriously sung” and having a voice that “sparkled easily above the orchestra”. In addition, she has performed as a concert soloist with many regional orchestras, choirs, colleges and universities and has been active as an administrator and stage director for arts organizations in the Pioneer Valley including serving as the current President of PanOpera Inc. 

Praised for his “revelatory” (New York Times) and “technically flawless, poetically inspired and immensely assured playing” (Toronto Star), pianist Jiayan Sun has given recitals and performed with distinguished conductors and orchestras worldwide, including The Cleveland Orchestra, The Hallé, Chinese and RTÉ (Ireland) National Symphony orchestras, Fort Worth and Toledo Symphony orchestras, and the Toronto and Aspen Concert orchestras. As a prize winner in Leeds, Cleveland, Dublin and Toronto International Piano Competitions, his performances have been broadcast on BBC, RTÉ, China Central Television and classical music radio stations in North America. Sun is Assistant Professor of Music and Associate Chair for Performance Activities at Smith College.

Jenna Rae’s performances are known for beauty, rigor, and profound emotional connection. In 2014, Rae began her soprano journey with PanOpera as Tosca. Her repertoire includes major roles such as Turandot with the Windham Orchestra, Leonora (Il Trovatore), Santuzza with the Windham Orchestra, and Elettra (Idomeneo) with the Bennington Choral Society. In 2019, she performed Isolde with TUNDI productions and Connecticut Lyric Opera. Recently, Rae performed the role of Brünnhilde in Die Walküre and Siegfried at the Wagner in Vermont Festival. Currently, Rae is in active preparation of a full Ring Cycle, set to unfold over the next few years, and will return as the role of Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung in 2024. Alongside Hugh Keelan, Rae co-founded TUNDI Productions, dedicated to Richard Wagner's encompassing artworks.

Erin Kathleen Casey’s soprano voice has been called “consistent, well-balanced, and beautiful…” (Michael Miller, The Berkshire Review for the Arts).  She is a frequent soloist with the Williams Chamber Players and The Greylock Opera Collective of New England, most recently in the titular role of the world premiere of The Weeping Woman by Michael Dilthey at MASS MoCA. She eagerly anticipates directing and conducting Don Giovanni at Williams in January of 2024, where she has been an Artist Associate since 2006, and is co-director of the Williams Opera Workshop.